Psychology of a Tattoo Essay
Gaddiel R. Martinez Social Psychology Dr. Farber February 23, 2010 Introduction In this paper, the psychology of Tattoos will be the topic. You will read about the Origin, the process of getting a Tattoo, and the psychological effect on people who get them. You will also read about the people who do not participate in this art and their reaction to those who do. As I did my research I found that getting a Tattoo can be a beautiful experience in your life, while it can also be a label that will mark you forever. They say Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this specially applies to this case.
While some people have pictures of things, moments or people that they wish to never forget, some other people just wear them on their skin for popularity points. In both situations each individual can find beauty as they observe them. The word Tattoo is said to have two major derivations from the Polynesian word ‘Ta’ which means ‘striking something’ and the Tahitian word ‘Tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’. The history of tattoo began over 5000 years ago and it changes and diversifies as much as the people who wear them.
Tattoos are created by inserting colored materials beneath the skins surface. The first tattoos probably were created by accident. Someone had a small wound, and rubbed it with a hand that was dirty with soot and ashes from the fire, once the wound had healed; they saw that a mark stayed permanently. Now a day’s Tattoos are done differently. Your skin is composed of several layers of skin, the outermost layer, which is very thin, is the Epidermis. This is the layer that holds everything in and acts as a protective barrier. Below that is the Dermis.
This thicker layer is the ‘meat’ of your skin, and is where hair is attached. Below this is the Subcutaneous layer which contains fat cells and is the transfer layer between the skin and the bloodstream. Your epidermis is constantly being replenished and if you get too much sun, it turns red and peels. If you get a scratch or cut, it usually heals and goes away. This would not be good for a tattoo. As soon as your skin refreshed itself, your tattoo would be gone! The Tattooist pushes through the Epidermis and leaves the tattoo in the Dermis.
Your dermis stays the way it is for your entire life, so a design put there is permanent. If Tattoos are done too deeply, into the Subcutaneous layer they often loose clarity as the inner layers also don’t hold the ink, absorbing it instead of shedding it off. Once the ink reaches the Dermis the bond it makes is permanent. Here are some examples of how permanent a Tattoo really is. In 1991, a five thousand year old tattooed man, an “Ice man” made the headlines of newspapers all over the world when his frozen body was discovered on a mountain between Austria and Italy.
To this day a better corpse has not been found as preserve as this Ice man was. His skin bears 57 tattoos. A cross was found on the inside of his left knee, six straight lines 15 Centimeters long above the area of the kidneys and numerous parallel lines on the ankles. The position of the tattoo marks, suggests that they were probably applied for therapeutic reasons (possibly treatment of arthritis). This specimen dated to be five thousand years old. There have been many more cultures and different people that had shown throughout time their involvement with tattoos.
In Siberia a group of tombs was found, inside were mummies that dated 2400 years ago, these mummies had tattoos in their bodies of animals and other religious symbols which to them had such a great significance that they tattoo them to their skin as a reminder. In Egypt they had also found preserve bodies as far back as the XI Dynasty (2160 BC and 1994 BC) with abstract geometric patterns tattoo to their bodies. In Japan the first written record of Japanese tattooing is found in a Chinese dynastic history put together in 297 AD.
The Japanese were interested in the art mostly for its decorative look, as opposed to religious, medical or magical beliefs. The Horis (The Japanese tattoo artists) were the undisputed masters and the best of the best in this particular art. Their use of colors, perspective, and imaginative designs gave the practice and the art a whole new angle. The classic Japanese tattoo, is a full body suit. The list can go on as tattooing is something that all cultures have taken a part of. India, Greece, France, Indonesia, and even in Africa, where people have dark skin.
Because of their dark skin there could not be color in there tattoos, but they want to be tattooed anyway, so they have developed another technique. They make scarifications (this is not really tattooing, but it is related to tattooing). Made by lifting the skin a little, and making a cut with a knife or some other sharp object. Sands or ashes were rubbed in to make raised scars in patterns on the body. After the process is done it can be felt like Braille lettering. Their patterns often follow local traditions.
In 1769, on their first trip to the southern seas, some of the sailors in James Cook’s crew let the natives of Tahiti decorate their skin as a memory of their experiences in this foreign and strange culture. They were the first to bring those so called “Tataus”, a former native ritual action, as a fashion statement to Europe. In the beginning mostly native tribal symbols were done, which are ancestor of today’s Tribal Tattoos. At the end of the 18th century tattoos were already spread among sailors widely and the British navy was the first to register a lot of patterns.
The Russian Admiral Krusenstern talked in his “Journey around the World” about every man in his crew getting tattooed while on sea. Tattoos where so popular then, that a professional tattoo artist was brought on board to try and tattoo all the men on the ship. Samuel O’Reilly (who was a successful New York tattoo artist and the inventor of the modern rotary tattoo machine) said: “A Sailor without a Tattoo Is like a Ship without Grog: Unseaworthy. ” Most of the tattoos were still done by natives on sailors and slowly the native tribal motives were mixed with the European designs.
Things that were part of the southern seas, where they got their tattoos done, like Palm Trees, Exotic Birds, Ships, Anchors, Pin-Ups or Light Houses were mostly done at first. Maritime designs which had a big symbolic meaning for each and every carrier. The designs showed a close connection to the sailor’s homeland, the people who lived there and were also carried as good luck charms. Nowadays those kinds of designs and images fall in the category of Traditional Tattoos. After Captain Cook arrived in the islands in the late 1700s, missionaries were soon to follow.
They denounced tattoo as “the Devil’s art,” and acted swiftly to abolish tattoos, which was condemned as a symbol of superstition and sorcery. The sophisticated body art form which had developed over thousands of years was nearly destroyed in just a few decades, preserved only in old paintings and photographs. .A lot of sailors learned the abilities of the natives and used them on their ships or on their shore leaves and also gave them on to others. This is how professional Tattoo Shops originated in seaport all over the world.
The owners of the shops were mostly former sailors who, due to a lack of alternatives, still had to apply the Tataus in the traditional native way until 1891 Samuel O’Reilly introduced the revolutionary electro mechanic tattoo machine which made it possible for artists to apply the tattoos much faster and less painful. In today’s society a lot of people tend to think negative and judge those people who have tattoos. People who see someone with a lot of tattoos will automatically think the worst of the person in front of them whose taking part in this type of art.
Those who have tattoos are no different than you and I or anyone else, except for the fact that they wish to stand out, because they have a strong sense of who they are, and are not afraid to show it. Many tattoos tell the story of a person, some tell their beliefs or experiences. A tattoo shows who a person is and what they are about. People with tattoos have a strong sense of identity which they have no intention to hide. They are not scared of public opinion and would love to let others know what they believe in.
People, who seem to go deeper into the psychology of those who have tattoos, seem to believe that they are people who are suffering from some kind of mental problems and look at them the way we look at strange animals in a cage. The truth of the matter is that they are far from that. In fact, they are enjoying their spirit of freedom. They have tattooed themselves, to remember a loved one, to pay tribute to a religion or a clan or simply displaying their magnificent beliefs. If you look a little deeper in to the meaning behind these tattoo designs, you will understand why people wear them on their bodies and display them too.
Psychologists, who try to put themselves in the mind of tattooed men and women, often fail to do so. This is because they suffer from a mental block created for centuries which associated tattoos with criminals and thugs. While it is true that criminals did used to and still now wear tattoos, it is also a fact that people who have tattoos would perhaps be amongst the friendliest and nicest of all the people in the world (like me! ). Many minority groups have long complained about being judged solely on their appearance. People of these groups are automatically stereotyped into different class.
The body art community is no exception. From schools to the profession we choose, to everyday life, people with body art are generally perceived as rebellious, irresponsible, unintelligent and sometimes even criminal. This kind of prejudice is no more acceptable than judging a person based on the color of their skin, their religion, or their gender. However, it does happen and those with body art are inspected under a close microscope. It is also no surprise that humans tend to be uneasy with anything that is different from what they are use to.
We are quick to curse and think irrationally about what these people need to do to change their attitudes, but we need to realize that we as individuals are responsible for bringing this change. A child does not overcome their fear of dogs by being thrown into a cage of angry canines. No wonder people without body art are afraid of people who have tattoos, if you walk around looking, acting and talking like a punk, criminal or an ignorant and uneducated person then you’re going to be perceived as a just that. We all know we are tattooed as a form of self-expression.
That doesn’t mean we have to be cocky or arrogant about our lifestyle. There is obviously a side of us that appreciates creativity and art; in some cases we have to nurture that side and stop always being on the defensive. Not assuming every person you meet is going to judge, and not assuming that we are better than them if they do. This is something I personally am conscious of every day, especially when my body art is clearly visible. One time I moved a shopping cart out of the way of a lady that was trying to park her car.
Another time I held a door open for an elderly man with a walker. Recently I returned a wallet that was left behind by the owner. These are not extraordinary things, but the look of pleasant surprise on the faces of these individuals proves to me that it made an impression. I did exactly the opposite of what was expected of me, and I earned a point of respect for the body art community. The simplest thing you can do everywhere you go and to everyone you meet is share a smile. If you give someone a genuine smile, they are going to smile back.
Dogs that walk around with their tails wagging and their tongues hanging out aren’t scary. And a person walking around with a big smile on their face isn’t going to pose any suspicion or be treated as if they are going to run away with your purse or possibly eat your children. There are numerous well respected wealthy people out there with tattoos. Yes even doctors, lawyers, and other very professional people have tattoos. Just because you display a little bit of body art does not mean you are a wild and crazy up to no good person.
Society needs to reprogram itself when it comes to tattoos. Just because someone has a little bit of body art that doesn’t mean that they are a criminal or a loser. You never know someone with a tattoo could capture your heart, they can be someone you really care about or even learn to admire, who knows… perhaps someone with a tattoo can end up saving your life one day. References: •Tattooarchive. com •Tattoojoy. com •Designboom. com •Bellaonline. com •Squidoo. com •Wikipedia. com